Blockchain technology, including crypto and NFTs, has experienced a turbulent couple of months. What place will they have in the gaming sector in the coming months and years.
Exclusive interview.- EvenBet Gaming released an extensive white paper in October, which examines the industry’s relationship with crypto, among a great many other things. To better understand what comes next for blockchain, Focus Gaming News spoke to EvenBet’s CEO Dmitry Starostenkov about what we’re likely to see from the technology next.
First off, can you tell us about the findings from your white paper on cryptocurrency?
We spoke to numerous igaming professionals about a whole host of topics for this white paper, but cryptocurrency and blockchain technology was the most talked about trend in igaming in Q3 2022, by far. These conversations included everything from extending the crypto payment ecosystem to creating new Web3 projects.
What’s interesting is that, although blockchain technology was being discussed by many different companies, very few have embraced it fully. Blockchain is still considered highly innovative and something to keep an eye on, but it’s not yet seen a great deal of implementation.
This is somewhat surprising given the popularity of cryptocurrency as an idea, but also because of the advantages of betting using it as a currency in the world of gambling. Many gamers see it as a quick and easy way to bet on poker games.
Whether this popularity will be enough to push more operators to introduce it as a payment method has yet to be seen.
“We aim to release an update on their white paper before long that will explore this topic further, so watch this space.”Dmitry Starostenkov, CEO at EvenBet Gaming.
What else did the white paper reveal?
Some of the industry leaders we spoke to mentioned that with the increasing number of complications in the regulation and AML practice and how crypto may become a solution that will save an industry already suffering from banking issues. It’s an interesting perspective.
Certainly, there are many countries and jurisdictions where bank transfers can take a frustratingly long period of time. We have seen this issue time and again, particularly in developing markets such as those in LatAm and Africa. In this instance, it’s easy to see why punters and operators would favour a blockchain solution to speed things up and foster an enjoyable gaming experience.
Further afield, we’ve identified that customers are seeking a wider range of poker products and more customised ways of playing. To cater to this need, we’ve developed our Game Constructor Tool. This allows our operator partners to manipulate a wide range of factors so they can differentiate their offerings and deliver the kind of games their customers are looking for.
How popular is blockchain globally at the moment? Do you think that’s set to grow?
There’s still a great deal of room and potential for crypto in most mature markets, including Europe, the USA, Canada, and Australia. Meanwhile, in countries like India, Brazil and several in southern Africa, we see 20-27 per cent of these populations have used cryptocurrency recently.
However, in more developed countries like Germany, this number is twice as low. Whether or not this will grow depends on individual countries’ legal statuses regarding blockchain.
For the moment, global financial regulators almost universally lack a sustainable plan for blockchain technology. This is probably due to the volatility that we’ve seen from it in the past.
Crypto payment providers have historically asserted that their exchange rates between cryptocurrency and fiat currencies are transparent, but this alone hasn’t been enough to persuade regulators of its legitimacy.
What is the igaming industry’s current attitude towards blockchain technology?
The industry has almost exclusively been hesitant to invest in crypto and it’s not difficult to see why it’s been so wary. Firstly, cryptocurrency remains a legal grey area in many jurisdictions, and the situation around it may evolve both beneficially or to its detriment. In short, the technology is still too volatile for many to invest in it in any meaningful way. Governments may either start to regulate cryptocurrency operations or ban them altogether. The latter becomes less likely over time, but we still can’t exclude it entirely.
Secondly, the numbers of regular blockchain users still remain relatively low in many key jurisdictions like the UK, though emerging markets like India, Brazil and Nigeria are experiencing a crypto boom.
Does cryptocurrency hold any particular potential for online poker players?
Due to the nature of the technology, many customers have been able to enjoy playing poker in regions where using fiat currencies makes doing so complicated. It also offers many attractive options aside from using coins for payments and withdrawals: extended anonymity, the possibility to bet against other players without depositing to the operator, and winning or buying cool NFT-art objects that grow in value over time.
Many poker players have simply been drawn to the technology and want to see it succeed, insisting on using it as a payment method. Poker operators should be aware of this fervour and be ready to adapt to it and give customers the purchase option of their choice as often as possible.
As consumers push for it and additional payment service providers respond, transaction volumes will increase. If this continues, financial institutions won’t be able to ignore it forever.
The technology has seen a few rocky months, is this something to worry about for those that have invested in it?
The only people who suffered during the last months were crypto traders. The technology itself is still a viable option and has as much potential to be a dynamic part of payments in the igaming sector as it ever did. The changing value of crypto is less of an issue for the companies who are investing in the technology itself or running blockchain-based gaming projects.
That’s not to say that the volatility of blockchain is something that will be fixed overnight, but it’s not something we would advise operators to hang an entire business on – new and aspirational technology like this should be invested in with great caution.
What do you think the next steps are for crypto as we enter 2023?
It’s fair to say that crypto still has a long way to go in order to become the currency of the future that it has been described as. That being said, we will definitely see more operators using blockchain in other ways than simply accepting crypto payments.
On our platform, we’re already developing Web3 projects, adding NFT elements to increase engagement and capitalisation. More education on the part of the general public is necessary so that igaming businesses can start to use options like these to increase their revenue and reach new audiences. This will just take time, but 2023 is likely to be a game-changer.